Lean Simulation Games

by / Sunday, 16 April 2017 / Published in Blog, Conferences

Highlights about Agile Academy participation at the Lean and Agile ME Summit 2017

Last Month, March 2017, Agile Academy has participated with workshop titled: “Lean Simulation Games: What Wastes Your Worktime?” at the Lean and Agile ME Summit 2017. Learning by Exploring, Experiential Learning, Discovery Learning are some terms which indicate new mainstreams in learning and education. In this interactive workshop, Agile Academy experts Amr & Mohamed explained the famous ‘Seven Wastes of Software Development’ using experiential learning techniques and simulation games.

What are the Seven Wastes of Software Development?

Mary and Tom Poppendieck, in their famous book Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash, have explained the typical seven categories of waste in software development. They have mapped such wastes from the corresponding wastes described in lean manufacturing (*):


Manufacturing Waste Parallel Software Waste
Inventory Partially Done Work
Overproduction Extra Features
Extra-processing Relearning
Transportation Handoffs
Waiting Delays
Motion Task Switching
Defects Defects


(*) Poppendieck, Mary and Tom. Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash. Addison-Wesley, 2006.

 Here are some high-level explanation of every type of waste:

  1. Partially Done Work: Work in Progress, e.g. Code not checked in, code not tested, test cases not executed, requirements analysed but not developed, etc.
  2. Extra Features: features fully developed, tested  and delivered to the end user, but was never used
  3. Relearning:  Spending effort in learning something more than once because of loss of information. This loss occurs due to lengthy delays or task switching or handoffs.
  4. Handoffs: Passing a piece o information from one team member to another, which may cause loss or change in information. For example, communicating customer requirements from a customer representative to the analyst, then a team leader, and finally to a developer.
  5. Delays: These are time intervals in which one or more team members are idle waiting for input from another activity. For example, waiting for staffing in a project, approval processes, lengthy feedback loops, requirements gathering, etc.
  6. Task Switching:  Interruptions during execution،which causes huge ineffectiveness in time usage, like switching focus or priorities, working on more than one thing at a time, serving multiple customers at a time, fixing issues while developing new features, etc.
  7. Defects: Defect waste is not only the time spent in testing and fixing the defect, but also the time it lies undetected, which causes subtle undetected issues in the operations at customer site.

Overview of Lean Simulation Games

Next is a list of activities and simulation games used in the workshop to explain the famous seven categories of waste in an experiential way:

Delay: The game used is the Lean-Star game. This game requires 5 participants. Each participant is responsible to draw one line in the star. First we do it in batches of 10 (WIP=10) and measure three things: the total cycle time, the activity time, and the wait time. Then we do it again with batch size of 5, then a last round with batch size of 1. The waste in this simulation amounts for 70% of the work time. (This is a pdf document to print the star)

Task SwitchingMultitasking Name Game. This game works amazingly well in explaining the effect of multitasking. Results of the game shows that with multitasking, teams spend 10 time more effort to do the same job!  


Extra Features: Hold a competition between groups to list the largest number of unused features in WhatsApp. Usually, teams manage to write a list of 8-10 unused features. The idea is that extra features are all around and costs a lot.

Partially-done work: This simulation is basically a competition of peeling an apple with a knife and peeling a piece of raw potato with a potato peeler. Usually, the potato peeler is much faster and gets the job done very quickly. However, the more effective process is not by just peeling but by getting the product ready to be consumed by end users. Therefore, the apple person wins the price.

Handoffs: We simulate this by a variant of the Telephone Game. First, start by narrating a user story with 3-4 conditions to one representative from each team. Each one of them explains the same story to another team member and so on. We limit the overall activity to 4 minutes. Then, the last person should write down the user story that he/she heard. Two rules must apply: (1) No writing in between is allowed, only verbal communication (2) Participants can’t go back and ask about details. Usually, we end up with a substantially different versions of the requested requirement!

Relearning: For this type of waste, we ask the audience to list activities that they have engaged in during the yesterday’s morning. And, they do the same thing for last week’s morning. The effort that they spend and the accuracy of the result gives a very clear indication of this type of waste.

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